MOORESBORO, NC (FOX Carolina) - Tuesday officials with Rutherford County Emergency Management lifted the mandatory evacuation that was affecting residents that lived near the American Zinc Products plant.
The evacuation, which has been in place since early Monday morning was lifted once the EPA performed 24 hours of community monitoring and confirmed that air quality is negative for any hazardous materials.
Rutherford County released the following on their Facebook page:
PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: The Rutherford County Emergency Management alongside the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and their contract companies have performed 24 hours of community monitoring around the American Zinc Processing facility. The results of these tests have confirmed that the air quality is negative for any hazardous materials. At this time the one-half mile evacuation has been lifted and residence can return to their homes.
Rutherford County Emergency Management would like to thank the community for their cooperation during the precautionary evacuation.
It was Monday afternoon, around 12:20 p.m., when the Rutherford County fire department said a fire at the American Zinc Products Plant was completely extinguished after hours of fighting the blaze.
Hamrick said the EPA would be doing air quality testing and testing rivers in nearby areas. Once the results of those tests come back, officials would make the determination of when to lift the mandatory evacuation order. Officials are hoping to have the results of those tests around lunchtime.
On Monday officials issued the evacuation warning for residents within a half mile radius of the American Zinc Products Plant in Mooresboro.
Deputies with the sheriff's office went door to door to get citizens evacuated after the plant fire had become hazardous, releasing sulfuric acid into the air. We're told about 48 residents were affected by the evacuation.
Assistant Fire Marshall John Greenway with the Rutherford County Fire Department said that an initial evacuation shelter had been established at Chase Middle School.
It was later Monday morning that Superintendent Janet Mason said the shelter had been moved to Chase High School auxiliary gymnasium. The superintendent said the shelter could be operated there without closing the school.
Greenway said,"The concerns are not necessarily the zinc. The concern is that sulfuric acid has been released. We're in the beginning stages of investigation the scene. We've had the decontamination firemen out here and their gear tested positive as hazardous so we have contained the fire to the building."
As of Monday, the zinc plant evacuation is still in effect, Rutherford County dispatch said on social media,
IMPORTANT MESSAGE FROM RUTHERFORD COUNTY EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT! – A temporary evacuation is still in effect for residents who live within one-half mile of the American Zinc Processing facility. Rutherford County Emergency Management in coordination with the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to monitor the air quality levels.
As a precaution, the current one-half mile evacuation will remain in effect until conditions and air quality are reassessed early Tuesday morning. If you have been displaced due to the one-half mile evacuation, please call (828) 287-6074 if you have sheltering needs.
QUICK RESPONSE TO THE PLANT FIRE
The call for the fire at the plant, which lies near the state line between North and South Carolina, initially came in Sunday evening.
Rutherford County dispatchers confirm that Cliffside FD was leading the response at the American Zinc Products Plant in Mooresboro on Hicks Grove Road.
Chesnee Community FD confirmed on Facebook they were responding alongside other units from Spartanburg County in South Carolina.
According to Capt. Bill Greene of Ellenboro Fire Department, crews responded around 8 p.m. to the plant, noting that flames rose as high as possibly 75 feet into the air. Greene says EFD was one of about 15 crews that responded to the plant, with more than 100 firefighters tackling the blaze.
Greene notes they had the top half of the plant under control during our interview, but were still handling interior fires and could be on scene throughout the night. He also tells us there were about 12 explosions in the building at the beginning of the incident.
It was around 2:07 a.m. on Monday when and evacuation order was issued, forcing firefighters to pull back from fighting the fire due to hazardous materials being airborne.
The Rutherford County Government Facebook page posted the following:
SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT! 2:07am - Rutherford County Emergency Management is now advising that as a precaution, a half mile evacuation is currently in effect due to the air quality. Sheriff personnel will be conducting door-to-door evacuations. A temporary emergency shelter is open at Chase Middle School located at 840 Chase High Road.
A viewer sent in photos to FOX Carolina showing the smoke rising from the plant.
On Monday morning American Zinc released a statement that said:
We applaud the courageous efforts of the fire departments in fighting this blaze. They have successfully contained the fire, with no injuries to any of our employees, who have all been accounted for. We are cooperating fully with state and local authorities to investigate the causes of the fire. Our highest priority at all times is to protect the community, our employees and the environment and we are grateful to the quick action by the local first responders. We are unable to comment further at this time.
At this time a cause of the fire has not been determined. Investigators were waiting until the fire is 100% extinguished before they begin to investigate.